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Take me back to simpler times when Instagram was just a photo-sharing app without DMs, Stories, Reels & (oh boy) a shopping section. It was unique & for people rather than for businesses & the thought “how can we increase engagement time on our app, as well as profit”? But we can’t accuse Instagram alone for losing its unique identity; Twitter is also selling uniqueness for profit with their “new invention”, Fleets (basically Stories). Facebook… has always been annoying.

 

After these new updates, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix & its focus upon social media. Here are two quotes that ring true about the entire social media industry:

 

How much of your life can we get you to give us?

We’re the product. Our attention is the product being sold to advertisers.

 

These quotes make me think of the Reels tab that has replaced the upload tab on Instagram. Instagram knew users would habitually use the button, because (another quote from Social Dilemma) “we’re programmed” to do so. You know how TikTok is addictive? Even on the day your paper’s due, you can spend hours scrolling down without realising it’s been five hours. We don’t even think about what we’re actually doing on social media; we’re just programmed to go there when we feel bored, angry or trying to avoid the real world. Why? Because social media don’t show us reality. It’s become our comfort zone when we don’t want to deal with our real-world problems, & this benefits social media & advertisers massively.

 

See what user Yosnier wrote on Twitter about Instagram’s new shopping tab:

”why would instagram, a photo sharing app, replace the notifications section with a shopping tab”

(this is not a genuine question chile we know why)”

 

Instagram has chosen the evil side – profit. It’s not simply a photo-sharing platform, but a marketplace. The saddest part? I believed that Instagram would take this opportunity to showcase & promote more small businesses in their shopping section. Instead, it’s just made up of the Selfridges, ASOS & Harrods who are already well-known & integrated within the market. Moreover, scrolling down doesn’t show you alternative shops than those already scrolled past. Rather, it repeats the same ones, making it harder for other businesses to be featured on a user’s feed. Instagram was once a place that small businesses relied on for building a business. Nowadays, they don’t stand a chance.  

 

Here’s another thought. Why now? 2020 isn’t the best year to encourage people to shop more. What about the impact global shopping/shipping has on the environment? What about the fast fashion companies, promoted by Instagram’s shopping tab, who will take this update as a sign that they need to produce more? What about users with impulsive shopping behaviour?

 

With so many questions, one thing has been made clear by Instagram: no one cares about what users initially want – they can programme you to like anything & want more.

 

Words By: Madina Latipova

Edited By: Megan Clayton 

Communication and Media first year student from Uzbekistan. Extremely open-minded and friendly. Dreaming of sex education classes in schools in my country.
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